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Just one number matters

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published April 07. 2010 4:00AM

San Antonio - Sometimes, even the most powerful dramatis personae are powerless. Sometimes, when their quests are historic, they become prisoners to external presumption, even when their true feelings reflect other intentions.

Such is the case for the women of Storrs, whose story gets told daily, but whose story never gets considered much at all.

Because amid all the confetti falling from the rafters Tuesday night at the Alamodome - one piece, seemingly, for all their consecutive wins - the championship pile near midcourt was the only piece of reality that's ever mattered to them.

It's all they talked about, really, even as they were reminded and reminded and reminded about all the other numbers.

The only number in which the UConn women were interested: No. 1.

The UConn Huskies are the national champions. Again.

To them, everything else is details.

And while they will certainly nod along approvingly with perfection, 78 straight wins, historical forays and boundless, big picture contrasts and correlations, their goal was to assemble at midcourt, deep in the heart of Texas, on a Tuesday in April. They did so at 39-0. But if it came at 37-2, or 34-5, the pile wouldn't have been smaller. Neither would the trophy. Or the banner. Or the emotion.

"I heard Kalana Greene answer that question one time," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said, alluding to a query about the winning streak, "and I thought she gave the best answer of anybody: 'You know, when I signed a letter of intent to come to Connecticut, I didn't come to win 70 in a row. I came to win national championships.'"

More Geno: "It's never been discussed at all, the numbers. I talked about it one time, to be honest with you. After we got to 70 or 71, I said, hey, what you guys have done has been really, really good. It's something you all should be really proud of. But those 71 don't mean anything unless we win six in a row in a couple of weeks."

No. 6 in a row translated into No. 1, the hardest one, Tuesday night.

Even the most ardent optimistic might have been wondering how a team that runs such meticulous offense could suddenly have the precision of a European soccer riot on Tuesday. Stanford did indeed regret only being ahead 20-12 at halftime. Think about that. The Cardinal held UConn to 12 points on 5-for-29 shooting and led by eight.

It should have been 18.

And when you do not suffocate winners of 77 straight, they become winners of 78.

"I've never been prouder," Auriemma said. "We reacted exactly the way champions react."

Not that we should have expected anything else. Because if you're really into splashy numbers, though, here are two that even make "78" cower in the corner: 7-0.

That's Auriemma's record in national championship games.

No other coach in the history of sports, other than John Wooden, can match that. Yes, there are other coaches who have never lost championship games. But no one other than Wooden and Auriemma are perfect in as many as seven tries.

Think about the whimsy of championship games for a minute. How Butler missed by an inch or two Monday night. How it's a bounce sometimes. How Mike Krzyzewski has lost four of them. How you can clang, clang, clang like the Huskies did Tuesday … all the things that can go wrong … and Auriemma is seven for seven.

"As much as I would love to say it's because of me, I've always brought with me the best player, the best team. And that, believe me, is 90 percent of the whole thing," Auriemma said. "You can't fool anybody in the final game. There's no great strategy. (This) game is going to be won by the best players."

The Huskies had the best players. Both of them. Tina Charles and Maya Moore.

And now young Ms. Charles goes away, but just down the road, to Neon Uncasville. She still belongs to Connecticut, the Connecticut Sun, who have an absolutely spectacular frontline of Charles, Asjha Jones, DeMya Walker and Sandrine Gruda. The happiest man in San Antonio on Tuesday was Geno Auriemma, trailed only by Mike Thibault.

For now, though, the women of Storrs celebrate the only thing they ever wanted from the 2010 season. When next season begins and all the external presumption focuses on the No. 88, all they'll care about again is No. 1.

Maybe that's why they're usually No. 1.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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